Michael Steele has a message for those who continue to criticize his tenure as Republican National Committee chairman: at least Republicans won when I led the national party.
It’s a veiled shot at current RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who is often praised for his fundraising and organizational skills, even as the Republican Party failed to retake the presidency and the U.S. Senate this year.
Steele led the committee during the 2010 cycle, when Republicans took control of the U.S. House. But he lost re-election to Priebus in 2011 after many Republicans argued that Steele had left the committee’s finances in shambles.
“What was the mess I left behind?” Steele said Monday in response to a question from The Daily Caller during a conference call organized by his firm. “Winning.”
“I get the Washington B.S. and all of that when it comes to trying to make me look bad,” he said. “But hey, the facts are the facts.”
Priebus told The Daily Caller on Thursday that he intends to decide soon if he’ll run for another term as chairman of the Republican National Committee. On Monday, Steele wouldn’t say whether he thinks Priebus deserves another term.
“I’m not a voting member of the RNC, so what I think on that really doesn’t matter,” he said with a laugh. “The 168 members will have to look at that and assess for themselves whether or not he deserves re-election.”
Steele made the comments during a post-election conference call organized by “Purple Nation Solutions,” the D.C.-based strategic communications firm he founded with former White House special counsel Lanny Davis.
Critics have long said the RNC wasted money under Steele’s leadership, but the former chairman defended the $198 million spent during his tenure, saying Republicans won elections as a result.
“How much do they have left over after this election?” he asked of Priebus’ RNC. “If they have $10 in the bank after this election then my question is, why wasn’t it spent trying to win Virginia?”
Steele also suggested that there’s a double standard at play, noting that the Democratic National Committee is also in debt but the committee’s chairwoman hasn’t faced the same questions he did about his spending.
“The DNC has, what, $15 million debt? Have you guys looked into that? Chairman [Debbie Wasserman-Schultz} has a $15 million line of credit. And she won. I had a $15 million line of credit and I won. But everyone treats that as if that’s a negative.”
Said Steele: “My point is get out of those weeds and look at what the results are, look at what the party is doing, how it’s branding itself, how it’s reaching new voters, how it’s expanding its base, how it’s appealing to people, and look at what that response is. And that should be the criteria and the judgment on RNC leadership. Period.”